Armor quality of the Tiger I

Discussions on the vehicles used by the Axis forces. Hosted by Christian Ankerstjerne
Avalancheon
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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by Avalancheon » 17 Mar 2019 15:48

I was recently involved in a discussion on reddit about the quality of German tank armor throughout the war. I stated that their plates only experienced a decline in early 1944, which was brought about by shortages of alloying elements (and a resultant change of heat treatment). One poster disagreed with me, and stated that the decline in armor quality began years earlier. He offered a very interesting comment which I'd like to share with you all.


What was the time frame from plan to front for German AFV's? Let me reply, it was 6 to 9 months depending the AFV's at hand.

So basically, a Tank whose armor's fails in February 1944, has been manufactured out of a process schedule statrted either in August 1943 or May 1943 (Tigers).

However as I said, the German war production suffered in many more ways than one.

Atomization, Slow transfer (from January 1943 about 27% of the railcars did not reach their destiniation. This became 42% in the first half of 1944), Re-serialization (a process which saw the Germans try to push in service parts that were defective after "re-serialization") etc.

Other issues also regard the perception.

The Germans produced very little heavy tanks in the great scheme of things. With the Panther (which was as heavy as the IS-series) Germany didn't scratch the 8K. This from Augst 1942.

The rest of the tanks, were already known quantity and not on the right side. The Pz3 and 4 even upgraded were rather ill-equipped AND of passable quality when it came to resilience.

This is why I said, that in 44 the German tanks weren't worse in absolute, actually they were better protected (on a raw data basis) than in 1942. But the tanks were visibly worse in their tactical employment, which rendered the other issues obvious.

In short, when the Germans were "winning", losses of tanks and AFV's weren't that important, because the victory was at hand. This is how a tank like the Pz3 made it as the main force in the Soviet union. The moment you're getting the raw end of the deal everything comes forward. The fact that the German Tanks didn't really pose an issue until the Tiger surfaced and that the Germans in more than one occasion were forced to use AAA to get rid of tanks they were ill-equipped to do.

So the famous "Deutsche Qualität" armor, isn't really a problem of quality or lack there-off. It's a problem of perception. German armor was always going to be insufficient, of variable quality and generally compromised in design.

This was reinforced as the War went to the Soviet Union, which caused within 3 first months more losses to German armored forces that they had incurred in all the previous campaigns priot to that.

This new dimension that befalls on the Germans, is a particularly severe issue.

The production rate of German AFV's is largely insufficient. While a quantity of Beute Panzers is available, the ammo complement that goes with them is at best a two months worth of combat.

The replacement rate is not only an issue for expanding the troops needed for the full conquest of the Soviet Union, it's an issue for the lack of mobilization of the German Economy. Basically Suddenly, your best shot at invading the USSR has failed, and you need to at least double it, while having lost temporarily or definitively 2000+ units out of a 3000+ force. As far as the plan goes, the German have lost their armored brunt and they've lost it mostly to AT guns and lack of availability.

These losses create the perfect storm on German steel industries. Enter Britain's decision to bomb cities and industries in Germany.

So at this point, we have a thorough picture on why German armor/steel quality wasn't substantially better. Because to become substantially worse, the armor quality had to be substantially better. But the production facilities for instance from 1940 to 1941 and 1942 were exactly the same. Exactly the same. What the Germans expanded, and often at great expense, was their repair capabilities.

The Germans had not enough means to expand their tank production right away. Because, they failed at Barbarossa, which meant a total change of operationnal plans.

While most operations til there were 2 month plans, Barbarossa lasted 4 and its compounding 2 more. This is to be coupled with this little nugget. In the Eastern front in 1941 the daily consumption of supplies by a panzer division was 30,4 tons when it was inactive; but in case of heavy combat the consumption of supplies increased to the staggering level of 711,2 tons.

So explain to me, how the German economy, which survives mostly through plunder, who is 58% more expensive than the average (this while taking into account the US, which is the great equalizer between all great powers). Compared to the USSR, the Germans were 112% more expensive in average (without Lend Lease).

You can't keep up without either a cheat sheet or simply an average quality that is passable.

All these are things, academics know. Logisticians and planners know since at least 1977. Germany was producing AFV's it couldn't afford, AFV's it could afford and both were of average quality.

Now the quality issue wasn't a German only thing. Off course, we're talking million wide fronts here. The procurement is going to be problematic, the issue though is where it stands at acceptancy.

The German AFV's were all fruits of compromise. This didn't stopped at things like sub-systems and doctrinal design. They went as far as armor quality and general durability.

The Pz4 which was for long time the heaviest tank available to the Germans, was thoroughly insufficient. Every detail about that tank in 1941 was an insult to German tankers. However, this didn't stopped the tank from being efficient.

This is the problem people don't get. It's not because the tank's usable and effective, that it doesn't have flaws. And because the damn tanks were insufficiently armored and the armor wasn't Adamantium, the Germans could both slip the losses under the rug and laugh them over while they marched all over Europe.

So in order for you to understand. From Barbarossa onwards, the German Economy is on coma from the level of production required to maintain the rythm of losses on the East.

This influences directly both quality of armor and productivity.

The fact we're discussing AGAIN stuff PIECEMEAL which makes no sense really puts me on the edge.

The bottom line is this.

Any decline in quality in German armor cannot be sudden because how the German industry worked then. This means that you would need a production frame of at least 6 to 9 months. Which would also mean trials way before, because planning, logistics.

And there we are again. If you want an early 1944 "armor decline", you have to assume the transformation at least by August 1942 and a run from Augustus 1943.


The poster provide a fairly convincing argument to support his theory. I don't agree with everything he said, but I do respect his opinion. Clearly, he has done some research into the matter.

critical mass
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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by critical mass » 19 Mar 2019 16:07

The question is and will be controversely discussed. Part of the reasoning is that also conflicting evidence is at hand.

F.e. we have armor acceptance regulations which proove that the level of ballistic resistence specified for passing armor did not drop under the specific test conditions referred to in these trials.
We have evidence from the armor makers that Molybdenium-free plates (molybdenium is an effective anti temper embritllement agent) were frequently failing said tests. We have also some evidence from experimentators, which claim that the Ersatz alloys were "tighter" in response to a variation of test conditions.
However, we also have evidence from the projectile makers which complain that the armor makers, got better (!), and consequently, caused a larger number of their products fail in the very rigid projectile acceptance tests (this, too, includes retests with old projectiles as controll groups).

The culprit are test conditions and epistemic expectation horizons associated with the changes of test regime. What may be good against one threat can be readily suboptimal against another and vice versa. Considering that the Heer needed armor-plate which works against both, capped A.P. employed by the western powers, and blunt headed, uncapped A.P. against the soviets will eventually demand a compromise to be ariived at between mutually opposing ideas.

For reading of the industrial context, I suggest H.K. Knittel, Die Panzerfertigung im Zweiten Weltkrieg.

critical mass
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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by critical mass » 21 Mar 2019 11:15

Some additional beef on TIGER RHA armor plate quality. The 150mm glacis plate was removed from an unfinnished hull and sampled at the USAPG according to US standarts and definitions. The armor was of good steel quality (very few non-metallic inclusions, very little embrittling residues) and very well cross rolled (no dominance in any plane direction). In average, it was harder than US RHA in this thickness range (approx. 225BHN, 85,000-92,000 PSI Y.S. & 108,000-117,000 PSI UTS), which should give good resistence vs undermathing attack. However, it was characterized as poor quality plate due to a much higher ductile to brittle transition temperature. Notice that the 24.4% distance between yield strength and ultimate tensile strength of the RHA plate is high compared to US RHA practice of 21.3%. This indicates to me that the armor would possess excellent plasticity despite the higher hardness and capacity for a large capacity for work hardening. This would tend to make the plate particularely desirable for sloped armor application.
I have changed the ft-lbs V-notch impact strength towards the more commonly used joules and the temperature (originally in deg. F) to degrees Celsius.
Notice the significant reduction of impact strength and more brittle fracture as we approach 0 degrees Celsius range. Although this graph doesnt tell much about actual resistence of the armor plate, it does show that in subzero temperatures, the TIGER2 can be expected to exhibit a larger ratio of brittle failure types.
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Avalancheon
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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by Avalancheon » 23 Mar 2019 14:49

critical mass wrote:
21 Mar 2019 11:15
Some additional beef on TIGER RHA armor plate quality. The 150mm glacis plate was removed from an unfinnished hull and sampled at the USAPG according to US standarts and definitions. The armor was of good steel quality (very few non-metallic inclusions, very little embrittling residues) and very well cross rolled (no dominance in any plane direction). In average, it was harder than US RHA in this thickness range (approx. 225BHN, 85,000-92,000 PSI Y.S. & 108,000-117,000 PSI UTS), which should give good resistence vs undermathing attack. However, it was characterized as poor quality plate due to a much higher ductile to brittle transition temperature. Notice that the 24.4% distance between yield strength and ultimate tensile strength of the RHA plate is high compared to US RHA practice of 21.3%. This indicates to me that the armor would possess excellent plasticity despite the higher hardness and capacity for a large capacity for work hardening. This would tend to make the plate particularely desirable for sloped armor application.
I have changed the ft-lbs V-notch impact strength towards the more commonly used joules and the temperature (originally in deg. F) to degrees Celsius.
Notice the significant reduction of impact strength and more brittle fracture as we approach 0 degrees Celsius range. Although this graph doesnt tell much about actual resistence of the armor plate, it does show that in subzero temperatures, the TIGER2 can be expected to exhibit a larger ratio of brittle failure types.
Good find, CM. This now gives us a dataset which we can use to make qualitative comparisons. Do you remember the ballistic test we were discussing a few months back, with the 122mm BR-471B against an inclined 100mm thick plate? This confirms that German RHA didn't tolerate cold temperatures as well as American RHA did: It was more liable to suffer brittle fractures and cracking.

viewtopic.php?p=2171279#p2171279
viewtopic.php?p=2171686#p2171686

Also interesting is how this metallurgical test states that the 150mm thick Tiger II plate didn't experience any issues with temper embrittlement at the mill. However, at least some of the Tiger II plates must have suffered from these problems, which were widespread by 1944.

critical mass
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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by critical mass » 23 Mar 2019 19:17

They did actually recorded issues with inferior low temperature v-notch charpy impact strength with the plate, caused by what the testers believed presumably problems with the heat treatment. The plate was good quality, very throroughly cross rolled (not easy in this thickness). There are two correlated issues in period understanding:

A) the US-and for that matter, the UK, too, were convinced that temper brittleness would best be identified by low temperature V-notch impact strength graphs in correlation with microsscopic anaylysis of the fracture, much like what they did with the TIGER2 plate. However, they did not agreed upon the exact causes of temper brittlenes nor its effects on ballistic resistence, except that they assumed a low impact strength correlates with low resistance.

B) the germans believed that temper brittleness ("Anlaßsprödigkeit" in their parlance) was caused by too slow cooling of the plate after the 2nd tempering heat treatment, so they had a fairly accurate image of the causes of temper brittleness. Contrary to british and american views, they regarded a low impact strength in ww2 as not very instructive in determining the ballistic quality of a plate. They appear to have differed shock strength from impact strength, and regarded the former a more sensitive indicator of the presence of temper brittleness, causing inferior ballistic properties.

C) the US preferred chromium-nickel-molybdenium armor steels, while the germans preferred chrome-molly alloys, these alloys significantly differed in their sesitivity and response to temper brittleness. Molybdenium surpresses temper brittleness effectively but also makes the armor more exposed to brittle low temperature failures (not temper brittleness here, its an attribute of Mb). Nickel on the other hand actually increases the exposure to temper brittleness-particularly if combined with chromium, but it is also a very effective toughening agent in low temperatures regimes.

There is no doubt in my opinion that the low temperature properties of german chrome-molly steels were inferior to higher alloyed chrome-nickel-molly steels such as US RHA or late ww2, soviet 42SM. Judging by the sources at hand, no decision can be made yet, whether or not this should be attributed to the alloy choice, the heat treatment, or both.

Avalancheon
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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by Avalancheon » 09 Apr 2019 02:58

With regards to the decline of German armor quality late in the war. I have found a general consensus that the shortage of alloying elements forced the Germans to use a different method of heat treatment; this technique was so difficult to utilise that the Germans were only able to successfully complete a certain proportion of the armor plates.

What I have not been able to find is a consensus on when exactly they switched over to the 'interrupted quench' method. Livingston says that this happened in 1944, and Spielberger says this occurred in 1945.

''By 1945 the precarious supply situation of critical alloy materials facing Germany resulted in a program of intentional systematic reduction of nickel, tungsten and molybdenum in the composition of armor steel... Throughout the entire thickness range (the upper limits of which remained conformal with the ever increasing anti-armor calibers and shell types to a maximum of 250mm) first nickel-free and then low alloy steels were introduced in compliance with carefully determined heat treating methods in the smelting of this "standard" steel for all plants.'' -The Panther & Its Variants, by Walter Spielberger.

''Improvisations by the German armor industry in the face of declining alloy content included multiple time quenching of plates in order to provide control over heat treatment, a process which must be conducted with care and precision to be successful. Times for immersing and removing steel from quench baths was specified to the second. Given the size and weight of plates such as the Panther glacis, inconsistency from one part of a plate to another would be a natural consequence. As alloy content dwindled, the margin for error in armor heat treatment narrowed.'' -World War II Ballistics: Armor and Gunnery, by Robert D. Livingston.

FORBIN Yves
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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by FORBIN Yves » 09 Apr 2019 12:28

I post here please exist similars blogs as this one about Panther/Jagpanther and variants with charts for production by month , deliveries to units for Tigers also eventualy others tanks, Stugs or Jagdpanzers ?
http://www.panther1944.de/index.php/en/ ... liste-1943

Byrden
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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by Byrden » 08 Sep 2019 16:54

Yoozername wrote:
30 Nov 2018 14:48
The lower frontal hull is more inclined than the upper hull, and designed to have the extra tracks stored across it.

No, it's not.
Any and all storage of spare track links on the lower front of a Tiger E, was created by the unit workshops. There were at least four different ways of doing it:

A rod running through the shackle holes
A rod welded under the side wall protrusion
A 10cm wide U-beam welded under the side wall protrusion
Beams welded directly to the front hull wall

Spare track storage, designed into the Tiger E and provided at the factory, was on the turret sides only.

David

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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by Byrden » 08 Sep 2019 17:02

seppw wrote:
03 Dec 2018 00:05
Image
Tiger, Kursk 1943 - 227 hits by AT rifles.....
Something's very wrong here. This Tiger was not at Kursk.

It's Tiger 231 of s.Pz.Abt. 503, and it's one of the first 20 Tigers issued to them (no side hatch, bin from a Pz.3) and it's still wearing its winter whitewash (over the first "tropical" scheme) because it suffered all that damage very early in 1943.

We have photos of its replacement, a later-model Tiger also numbered 231, which did go to Kursk. In any case those white-filled digits on the turret side did not exist in s.Pz.Abt. 503 during Kursk.

David

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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by Byrden » 08 Sep 2019 17:18

Michael Kenny wrote:
09 Feb 2019 02:53
Avalancheon wrote:
08 Feb 2019 23:56
Image
July-August 1943. Tunisia. See pages 12-17 Jentz, TigerI & II, Combat Tactics.

It is Tiger "241" of s.Pz.Abt. 501. http://tiger1.info/tank-page/A2R

David
Last edited by Byrden on 08 Sep 2019 17:24, edited 1 time in total.

Byrden
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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by Byrden » 08 Sep 2019 17:24

Avalancheon wrote:
18 Feb 2019 00:43
...there was at least one instance when a 25 pounder gun knocked out a Tiger tank from the flank.
''The 25-pounders opened fire first at short range, and hitting a Tiger in the side, the shell went through, setting it on fire.'' -Tunisian Battle, by John D'Arcy-Dawson.
Its probably not the same vehicle, because the British test reported that their Tiger was not burned.
That book refers to Tiger "231" of the 501st, knocked out on 31 January 1943 on the road to Robaa. It was tested to destruction in situ by the British.

http://tiger1.info/event-page/Robaa-road-ambush

David
Last edited by Byrden on 08 Sep 2019 17:35, edited 1 time in total.

Byrden
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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by Byrden » 08 Sep 2019 17:35

Michael Kenny wrote:
21 Feb 2019 23:47
It is sPz Abt 507 (100% certain) and there is an earlier photo of what could be the same tank (60% possibility).
Not the same tank. This one is from s.Pz.Abt.504. See:

http://tiger1.info/event-page/Potassa-Tigers

David

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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by Byrden » 08 Sep 2019 17:48

Yoozername wrote:
11 Feb 2019 20:35
Not sure if I posted this already to the thread. Video shows a Tiger I being shot up by british later in the video...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44IWaZrBcXo
That is Tiger 250001, the first production Tiger. It never left Germany.

David

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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by Yoozername » 08 Sep 2019 20:27

Byrden wrote:
08 Sep 2019 17:02
seppw wrote:
03 Dec 2018 00:05
Image
Tiger, Kursk 1943 - 227 hits by AT rifles.....
Something's very wrong here. This Tiger was not at Kursk.

It's Tiger 231 of s.Pz.Abt. 503, and it's one of the first 20 Tigers issued to them (no side hatch, bin from a Pz.3) and it's still wearing its winter whitewash (over the first "tropical" scheme) because it suffered all that damage very early in 1943.

We have photos of its replacement, a later-model Tiger also numbered 231, which did go to Kursk. In any case those white-filled digits on the turret side did not exist in s.Pz.Abt. 503 during Kursk.

David
An account...of the commander of Tiger I with tactical number '231' (2./sPzAbt.503), Leutnant Zabel, which describes the damage caused to his vehicle during the attack on a very strongly defended Soviet position.

As a curiosity: A list of the damages suffered by this vehicle as well as a photograph of it taken after the fighting, can be found on page 4 of D656 / 27 'Tigerfibel' (!)


Impressions of the damage caused by the enemy in Panzer VI
during the fighting of 10. and 11.2.1943 in the collective hacienda west of Ssemernikowo.


During the attack on February 10 and 11, 1943 at the collective hacienda west of Ssemernikowo, the Sander combat group ( Kampfgruppe Sander ) had before it a very powerful enemy.

The Tiger, as a vanguard squad well ahead of light vehicles, attracted the enemy fire in a very special way. The enemy fire was directed mainly against the frontal zone and right flank. The enemy, mainly equipped with tanks, anti-tank guns and infants with anti-tank rifles, opened the fire at a great distance.

At the beginning of the fighting my vehicle was hit frontally by a 7.62 cm projectile in the driver's area. The replacement chain links that were fixed in that area with a metal bar were shattered. Inside the vehicle was perceived as a dry burst accompanied by a slight vibration. As the Tiger approached the town, the noise of the outbursts and the vibrations caused by the impacts of 7.62 cm anti-tank projectiles increased. In the same way, multiple impacts could be observed in the frontal and lateral zones that produced large flares.

The crew also observed light-colored bursts accompanied by yellow flares. It was undoubtedly impacts of anti-tank guns.

A short time later the commander's dome was reached by a 4.5 cm anti-tank projectile. The Kinon block supports ( Kinonblock) were ripped out. The block got stuck and due to the explosion gases it became totally opaque. A second impact on the commander's dome tore the supports from the dome lid, these falling to the floor of the combat compartment. Inside the compartment there was a very unpleasant smell of dust as well as a great increase in temperature. The cover of the hatch of the loader, which had become clogged and for that reason could not be completely closed, was reached several times by anti-tank guns, so that its supports were also destroyed. The lid was locked in such a way that after the fighting it could only be opened by means of a lever. In the commander's dome two impacts of 4.5 cm anti-tank gun were counted as well as approximately 15 impacts of anti-tank gun.

Over the two days the enemy destroyed each time our machine guns. Similarly, the turret's smoke-throwing boats were destroyed. The gases penetrated inside the vehicle and the smoke formation was so massive that for a certain time the vehicle was out of combat.

As the Tiger approached the hacienda the enemy fire increased. Each impact was perceived as a great explosion, a slight vibration of the vehicle as well as unpleasant dust gases and yellow flares.

The tension in all the crew members was so great that they lost all notion of time, hunger or any other need. Although the attack lasted more than 6 hours, it seemed to the crews that its duration was much shorter. After being hit again by a 7.62 cm anti-tank projectile on the tablecloth, the barrel support screws were shattered, the barrel damper lost brake fluid and the barrel was locked in its rear position. Due to an electrical failure the closing system could not be operated.

Due to the vibrations caused by new impacts, the radio system broke down, the gearshift lever as well as the gas pedal drive were damaged. When the protections of the exhaust pipes were destroyed, there was a fire that could be extinguished.

New impacts on the turret shattered the rear screws of the turret ring. Due to the constant vibrations the turning system got stuck several times.

An explosive charge was thrown on the vehicle causing a large explosion, a large smoke and an increase in temperature.

In my vehicle 227 have been postedanti-tank gun impacts, 14 projectiles impacts of 5.2 cm and 4.5 cm as well as 11 impacts of 7.62 cm. The right rolling system had been very seriously damaged by enemy fire. Several wheels had been totally destroyed. Two swinging arms had been totally damaged by impact. A tension wheel had been torn from its support. In spite of everything, the Tiger could later travel a distance of approximately 60 km.

The impacts have caused cracks in the welds. As a result of the vibrations caused by the impacts there has been a leak in the fuel tank. The chains were hit several times by anti-tank projectiles, although the operability of the Tiger has not been compromised at any time. Due to the many impacts, there have been more technical failures that we have not yet discovered.

Finally, it must be said that the Tiger's armor has served its purpose. The crew has only been able to achieve its objectives knowing that it is protected by strong armor. Even so, the greatest commitment of all crew members has been necessary.
Looks like it made the Fibel

Image

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Re: Armor quality of the Tiger I

Post by Michael Kenny » 08 Sep 2019 20:54

Yoozername wrote:
08 Sep 2019 20:27

Finally, it must be said that the Tiger's armor has served its purpose. The crew has only been able to achieve its objectives knowing that it is protected by strong armor.



No objectives 'achieved' by this Tiger. It appears the Soviets got the better of them.

From 2007:

https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/missing ... ml#p726202

Further details can be found in Egon Kleine's and Volkmat Kuhn's TIGER, Die Geschichte einer legendaren Waffe 1942-45, page 72. The source of the report is stated to be the Tigerfibel D 656/27. The day of the assault was not the 10th, rather the 9th of February and the target was named Wesselyj. Participants were the sPzAbt 503 with 11 Tigers and 12 Pz III, the grenadiers of II/PGR 128 and an unnamed lFH battery.

The first attack went in at 0545, and was stopped. A second went in at 0935 and was also stopped. The third and last one also ended in failure. Net result of the activities was heavily losses to the grenadiers and two (2) tanks left operational. Certainly the Soviets had sustained losses too, but the attack ultimately failed.

Out of this mess emerges Tigers no 121 and 141 from the battalion repairs unit on the 10th. Both of these are so badly damaged that they need to be sent home to Germany for factory repairs. One of these two is the badly damaged one from the report. Due to initiative of Oberst Thomale, and in agreement with the OKH, it sent to the PzErs.-und-Ausb.-Abt 500 in Paderborn, and then put on display there 'as is'.

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